Chris Park is the former Editor in Chief of Blueprint. -Ed.
There is a global erosion of the understanding in the role of the press. We are the daily targets of Twitter rants by the President of the United States. He calls us the “enemy of the people,” a line autocrats around the world are too eager to echo—the same thugs who aren’t afraid to detain and murder journalists.
Over the past 10 years, 700 journalists have been killed. One of them was Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post who wrote scathing articles about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The Saudi government assassinated him and dismembered his body last October.
We are the Press.
We exercise and defend the first right of the People guaranteed under the Bill of Rights. Our job isn’t to be liked or deliver feel-good news. We serve as the final line of defense in the corroded state of our democracy, holding in public spotlight every decision an elected body makes.
And that sacred duty starts with us here at our school. Perhaps it’s a bit conceited to fuse together principle so grandiose like the freedom of the press with a mere student newspaper. But even something one might consider trivial, such as student body election, is a microcosm of the larger democratic experiment that warrants a free press. With it should come the protection for the Press.
The piece published by Blueprint a couple of days ago laid out what the editorialist believed was missing from this year’s Student Council elections: a focus on issues. It never denigrated the hard work done by the student leaders in the past. The writer agreed that, in part, elections are a popularity contest: outreach efforts, be it through slogans, social media presence, or face paints, are important. But it shouldn’t be the only part of it. An election is an application for the job, albeit more public than one we typically encounter.
Blueprint rarely publishes anonymous Op-Ed pieces, as one Facebook commenter noted. But we believed that publishing the article anonymously was the only way to deliver this important perspective to the school community, especially witnessing the level of vitriol in numerous personal attacks and threats made since. The original piece has now been updated, reflecting the authorship. We now ask for your discretion.
Since the publication of the article, a number of people have reached out to Blueprint thanking the writer for voicing a necessary perspective. As opposed to critics of the article who freely expressed their opinions on public and private media (and they have full rights to do so), supporters felt the need to keep their opinion hidden from the student body. We have a climate where free speech and expression are implicitly oppressed by the fear of blind criticism, and where students are so quick to dismiss opposing views that some were taking sides without even reading the article. This is an eerie reflection of the harshly polarized state of the current political climate, both in the United States and Korea, calling to mind how Republican commenters are treated on New Yorker articles or, conversely, Democrats on the Washington Times.
We take no position on whether the writer’s perspective was true, but we do take the position that it was a perspective and merits publication. It has turned out to be an important perspective, at that—evoking critical thought, debate, and discussion throughout the student body, perhaps inviting more intellectual engagement with the significance of student council elections than ever.
Regardless of which side of the debate you were on, the vast majority of the responses showed that our school was a community driven by passion. Democracy is a messy experiment, one full of vociferous and quarrelsome individuals unafraid to voice their opinions. And politics, at any level, can be awfully personal. Its results can determine our financial security or immigration status. Sometimes, as it was in this election, it’s our friend and family bravely taking on the challenge to run. It might seem unfair to have an “October-surprise” article ruthlessly excoriate those we are close to, but we need a place to have a frank and open discussion about the state our politics, no matter how personal.
A free press is an agent to drive that debate. We, of everyone, want a vibrant discussion on issues we bring forward and welcomed the comments and opinions shared since that article went online.
We, however, were disturbed by those who disputed our right to express, to question, and to publish, harassed our writers, and dismissed our work to simply be a desperate cry for attention. They are the very culprits in the global assault against a free press and are no better than the violent mass who assault journalists at Trump rallies.
Again, the Press does not exist to be positive or to be liked. To shield our school from dissent, from questioning the status quo, from going against the orthodoxy for the sake of deterring negativity violates the very core of our purpose. Blueprint, as the only student-run newspaper at KIS, should and will continue to diligently carry out our duty to the People.
We stand by our decision to publish the controversial piece a couple of days ago. Not because we necessarily agree with the piece, but because, we, as a school, need to maintain the integrity of the Press.
Featured Image: Kathy Willens/Associated Press
Jennie Yeom (‘20) and Hope Yoon (‘19) contributed to this article. Jennie Yeom is the current Editor in Chief. Hope Yoon is a former Editor.